We are lucky to have in the Pays d’Issoire the two most beautiful villages in France in the Puy-de-Dôme department: Usson and Montpeyroux. Both perched on a hill, these two villages, in addition to being beautiful, offer a superb panoramic view of the surroundings.
A short presentation is therefore necessary!
Considered as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France by the association of the same name since 1989, the village of Montpeyroux is built on a sandstone rock at an altitude of 482 metres and offers a superb view over the Allier valley and the Chaîne des Puys. Once a winegrower village, it is in a labyrinth of narrow streets that we wander to admire the winegrower’s houses, the bourgeois houses and the two historical monuments: the 12th century donjon overlooking the village and the main gate.
Montpeyroux, or the “rocky hill”, takes its name from its arkose quarries, a stone with warm, beige, blond and ochre shades, which have been used a lot for local construction, both in Montpeyroux and in the surrounding area. One feels a little bit in the south while we are in the heart of Auvergne!
There are two possibilities to visit: a simple stroll in the village or a pretty 9 km hiking loop that allows us to discover both the village of Montpeyroux but also the banks of the Allier, the old arkose quarries and the Chadieu estate.
Find the hiking sheet “on the way to the arkose” here. (it takes about 2 hours and a half to walk)
The village of Usson is also one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France as it is located on a volcanic peak in the Livradois-Forez Regional Natural Park. And when one thinks of height, one thinks of beautiful panoramic views in addition to visiting one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. If the weather is clear, it is time to enjoy the beautiful views of the Sancy massif, the Chaîne des Puys, the Cézallier, the Livradois-Forez mountains….
In terms of history, we are not to be outdone since all you have to do is follow the enamelled lava salamander in the village to learn more about Queen Margot’s life. Indeed, she left her mark on Usson’s history as she was in exile there for 19 years, when Usson was the fortress considered to be the “strongest place in the realm”.
If the castle no longer exists today following the order of destruction of Richelieu in 1633, the architectural heritage of Usson is mainly composed of beautiful black stone winegrowers’ houses.
By following the path of the salamander, we snake through the alleys of Usson to the Romanesque church of Saint-Maurice and the queen’s chapel, passing beforehand through the washhouse and the old forge. From here, it is also possible to reach the basalt columns and then take the footpath to the top of the hill to admire the surroundings with a 360° panorama.
The Queen Margot footpath, marked by a yellow butterfly, is a small family hiking itinerary that allows you to walk around the hill in one hour, discovering the village, the basalt columns, but also the ruins of the feudal castle walls, while enjoying the view from the surrounding countryside to the fullest extent. (We count about an hour for this walk.)
And if your appetite for a visit is not yet satisfied, two other the Most Beautiful Villages in France are located in the south of the Pays d’Issoire in the Haute-Loire department: Blesle and Lavaudieu. Have a nice walk!